Bennie Hays, Actions Led To Klan Downfall

MOBILE, Ala. - Bennie Jack Hays, a former Ku Klux Klan leader accused of instigating the murder that led to his group's financial ruin, died in a Mississippi hospital. He was 76.

Mr. Hays, who died Saturday, was awaiting trial in the slaying of 19-year-old Michael Donald of Mobile. The black teenager was abducted at random in 1981, his throat was slashed and his body was hanged from a tree.

A federal jury ordered Hays' United Klans of America Inc. to pay Donald's family $7 million.

The group's headquarters and property in Tuscaloosa were seized to settle the judgment.

Mr. Hays' son, Henry Francis Hays, was convicted of the killing and sentenced to death. He is at Holman Prison, awaiting execution.

Hays, a former great titan of the KKK in Alabama, was accused of ordering that a black man be killed to demonstrate Klan strength and to retaliate for the mistrial of a black man charged with killing a white police officer.

His first trial ended with a mistrial in 1988 when he collapsed in the courtroom. His second trial was scheduled for Oct. 4.